MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Kitten rescuer and New York Times bestselling author, Hannah Shaw, aka the Kitten Lady, has dedicated her life to finding innovative ways to protect animals.
Her travels across the U.S. and the world brought her to Miami on Monday night for a fun and informative lecture at the Miami-Dade Animal Service Department’s Pet Adoption and Protection Center.
During the sold out workshop, “Community Cats 101′, Shaw discussed the best ways to help feral and community cats across South Florida.
“I am a humane educator and I teach people all over the world how to do protect the most vulnerable felines which is neonatal kittens and community cats and I focus a lot on orphaned kittens and their care because they are the most vulnerable population at animal shelters,” Shaw told CBSMiami.com. “A lot of people don’t realize that the most adopted cat in a shelter is an 8 week old kitten, but the most vulnerable cat in a shelter is a kitten under 8 weeks old. They are euthanized in large numbers in the United States and so the only option they have is foster care, which is why I believe in empowering people to foster.“
She also focuses on teaching people about Trap-Neuter-Return for community cats, “Because 80% of kittens born every year are born outside, so if we’re not sterilizing the outdoor cat populations, we just keep having this abundance of kittens coming into shelters,” she explained.
Her feline mission started about ten years ago.
“I found a kitten outside and I didn’t know what to do and I brought that kitten home and learned the hard way that there’s not a lot of resources for them in terms of programs to save them or information about how to save them yourself,” she recalled. That was her motivation. “I started taking in kittens from my neighborhood and learning how to raise them and eventually started working with the animal shelters in my community to offer that to them because I found out that those kittens were just being euthanized in my local shelters. I would go there and tell them that I was now taking in kittens if you have them and then I found out, ‘wow’, there’s a lot of kittens coming into shelters and that’s when I realized that education so important because I can’t do it all myself.”
Soon, she made the connection that it does not make sense to keep taking in kittens if nobody is doing anything about the population outdoors. That is when she became really passionate about Trap-Neuter-Return.
Overtime, all of that work and desire to help the most helpless developed into her non-profit, Orphan Kitten Club, a 501(c)3, which focuses on providing nursery services to kittens and Trap-Neuter-Return services.
Shaw currently has hundreds of YouTube videos about caring for rescue kittens and TNR, she teaches workshops around the world, and has more than 1 million followers on Instagram. In addition, she started a grant program to give money to foster-related organizations.
At any given time, Shaw fosters between 2 to 12 kittens, and has three adults cats of her own, Coco, Haroun and Eloise.
When asked if she ever had a favorite foster kitten, her answer was “every kitten is my favorite kitten.” But her current foster, Jez, is definitely at the top of the heap.
“He is the sweetest little tabby boy who just had amputation surgery due to a broken leg. He was found at a couple of weeks old with a leg that had already healed but it grew improperly so it had to be removed when he was old enough. So I have this cute little tripod kitten at home now and I’m also fostering a piglet and they are best friends. I can’t believe how cute my life is right now. Sometimes I’m like ‘wow’, you sign up to foster or you get involved in cat welfare and you never know where life will take you. You might just find yourself with a three-legged kitten and a piglet cuddling in the window. I will foster just about any baby who needs me.” She added, “Different neonates of different species, their needs are pretty similar. They need to be kept warm, they all need to be given nutrition many times throughout the day, they all need a lot of similar things.”
Shaw has published two books. Tiny But Mighty is a how-to-guide to caring for newborn kittens. Her follow up, Kitten Lady’s Big Book of Little Kittens is a children’s book.
She lives in San Diego and is getting married to her fiancé, cat photographer Andrew Marttila, in October. They will be getting married at the animal sanctuary where her piglets live.
If you are interested in fostering, contact your local animal shelter.
March is the official start of kitten season, the time of the year when most kittens are born and when shelters are busiest with incoming newborns. Miami-Dade Animal Services is currently seeking Kitten Cuddlers. The Kitten Cuddler foster program provides training on bottle-feeding and the general care of newborn kittens. Training sessions take place every Sunday noon at the Pet Adoption and Protection Center located at 3599 SW 79th Avenue in Doral.
For information on becoming a Kitten Cuddler, email email@example.com